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Where Does This Major Player Belong?

It’s nearly a month into the Ontario Hockey League season and it’s safe to say there have been a few new inductees into the “shockers club.” Of course, the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors received a special invitation to join.

Not that they were predicted to be at the bottom of the rankings, but they weren’t expected to be riding at the top of the Eastern Conference either.

However, the big boys in the National Hockey League are just beginning their tour. And while some players have already rejoined their current OHL teams, others have yet to return. With some entry-level contracts signed, we can start counting down the days until the rookies mark that ninth NHL game and await their future of whether or not they stay or get sent back down to junior.

One of the players trying to keep his spot with the big club is Devante Smith-Pelly. After making the starting roster with the Anaheim Ducks out of training camp, the 19-year-old has banked an assist and four penalty minutes in five games.

And although the question, “will he come back to the Majors?” has been asked before, as time progresses, it seems less and less likely that he will.

I’m curious as to what the average hockey fan and media gurus think, so I’ve asked around and it appears most people are leaning towards Smith-Pelly returning by the beginning of November, but the differential between the two sides is slim.

Having attended every Majors home game, however, I’ve noticed another question asked as the current Mississauga roster takes to the ice: Devante who?

With all the success the double blue has had already this season, left winger’s presence is all but forgotten.

But let’s be realistic here, if Smith-Pelly is released by the Ducks, there’s no doubt he will be a huge asset to Mississauga’s lineup. Over the past three seasons, his point production has increased (25, 62, and 66 points in 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11, respectively), and with a very impressive leap in his +/- record (-4 in 2008-09, +27 in 2009-10, +49 in 2010-2011), he has proven a strong defensive presence as well. He went on to earn 21 points in 20 playoffs games last season, plus his tear at the 2011 Memorial Cup where he scored six points in five tilts.

My next question is, where will he fit in?

The Majors began the season with a starting lineup of Brace-Mayer-Schoenmakers. Needless to say, that line meshed quite nicely, as we’ve seen Brace perform above and beyond what was expected of him.

Then the injuries came, as many teams have experienced already. Mayer and Cramarossa sat for five and seven games, respectively, so James Boyd shuffled. Brace took centre stage (as if he hadn’t with his showing already) with Kuptsov and Schoenmakers at the wings.

This line produced immediately, especially in the 4-3 win against the Colts in Barrie (Kupstov with two goals and an assist including the game-winning goal, Schoenmakers with a goal and assist, and Brace with three assists). These three Majors have earned 38 of the team’s 95 points.

During exhibition, I pinned Smith-Pelly with Mayer and Kuptsov as top line, had he returned in time for the start of regular season. Initially that seemed a little extreme putting Kuptsov on the top line so soon. It doesn’t seem so crazy now.

All we know for sure is, at this moment, Smith-Pelly remains with the Ducks. My sources tell me that he is getting comfortable in California. That source being a fellow ITO correspondent who would like to remain anonymous. I’ll discreetly call him, T. Hallyburton.

It seems time will tell. Regardless, Smith-Pelly is a great player that will make a statement wherever he is. He’s fast, a powerhouse on the ice, a pure goal scorer, and a great all-round guy. Not to mention his presence in the locker room will inspire leadership and a sense of camaraderie among the Majors.

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